home ownership

Buying Our First Home: An Update on Savings and Realtors

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It’s been awhile since I talked about our home-buying process.  Not much has changed in the last couple months.  We’ve just been saving like crazy – or as much as we could during the wedding planning shenanigans.

We were going to meet our high-end savings goal right at the end of our lease (April 2012), but with the money we received from the wedding, we will meet our goal at the end of this year (2011).

This is great news, but doesn’t change our plans much.  I am adamant about buying towards the lower end of our desired price range, so since we’re meeting our high-end savings goal by year-end, we’ll probably be able to put more down on the house than we had anticipated.

How much are we saving?  A lot.  As much as we can.  About 50% of our take-home pay (after taxes, retirement contributions, insurance, etc.).  And even though we’re saving a lot of our income, it has still taken a LONG time to build up our savings to home-buying levels (well, our version of home-buying levels, anyway).  Houses are expensive!

We have chosen a realtor!  I actually JUST sent him the initial e-mail this morning letting him know that we wanted to meet and discuss the home-buying process with him.  I really have no idea how this works.  When I was drafting the e-mail, I felt like I was asking him out on a date almost!  “Will you be my realtor?” sounds a little corny, right?

He is a great guy that we’ve known for a couple years through our church.  Hopefully he wants to work with us!  I’ll update on how that goes in my next home buying post.

At our initial meeting with our realtor, I’d like to just go over what we’re looking for and what we’re wanting to spend just so he can be on the look out for us.  Then, I’d like to SERIOUSLY start house-hunting this fall – maybe starting in October.  Like I’ve mentioned, our lease ends at the end of April, so it would be GREAT if we could time our move to coincide with our lease.  I know that’s going to be hard to do as we move into 2012 (especially if we have any hiccups in the buying process).  It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out once we start looking!

If you’re a homeowner, how did you choose your realtor?


  • First of all – congratulations on the wedding and your upcoming home purchase! I have been reading your blog for about 2 months now and couldn’t be happier for you 🙂

    Second of all – today is the first time I’ve been back to your actual site (rather than perusing Google Reader) and I L-O-V-E the new look to the site! So many exciting fresh starts for you 🙂

  • Get ready for a roller coaster ride! House hunting is not for the faint at heart. You two are so prepared that you will be ready for all the curve balls though. If I saved 50% of take home I’d be eating beans every day. I like beans and all but…..not every day!! I definitely save though and always have and just b/c I can’t save as much as I’d like is no reason not to.

  • We found our realtor based on a friend’s recommendation. While we enjoyed working with her, she discouraged us from looking at foreclosures and short sales, which looking back now, we probably would’ve done differently. But I wouldn’t worry too much about the timelines coming together – we also had to time our move with our apt lease ending and it worked out perfectly. Our realtor always said, “If it’s the right house, everything will fall into place.” And we really enjoyed house hunting – it wasn’t a “roller coaster ride” for us. Good luck!

  • Yahoo! Props on putting a considerable amount of thought into the process on the front end. All to often, people simply stumble into and through the home-buying process, not taking the time to educate themselves and really think about what it is that they want and how to get it. I suppose the same could be said of ANY process though – there will always be some people who approach it proactively and others who just railroad their way through.

    Anyway, we chose our realtor based on the recommendation of two sets of friends who’d used her. I’d met her prior to working with her and thought she was excellent, but ultimately, Dude and I were pretty disappointed in our experience. I think she is a genuinely good realtor, but we just happened to catch her at a very bad time – she’d JUST had a baby using a surrogate AND was 5 months pregnant – so clearly, she had a lot on her plate. I think she also took our preparation for granted and assumed that since we’d done so much research on our own, that we didn’t need her to serve as a resource to the same extent that other buyers might.

    At the end of the day, we bought a great home that we love, so it’s not like we’re bent out of shape about it, but I can’t say I’d recommend her to others with the same enthusiasm that our friends recommended her to us.

    All that said, here’s some advice for you: You very well may be tempting fate by being THIS proactive in your approach to buying a home. If you don’t want to close on a home until next April, I’d recommend that you not start looking at houses until January or February, rather than this fall. Because once you start, you really are off and running and it’s difficult to put on the brakes, especially if you find a home that you love (which you will undoubtedly do). It’s increasingly common to have a 30-day closing, which means that if you want to avoid paying rent AND a mortgage at the same time, you really should aim to go under contract in late March, which means you should give yourself 4-6 weeks to look. Hence, a January-February start date. Even if you can write a 60-day closing into your contact, you’ll still want to wait until just after the first of the year to start looking.

    Good luck, and HAVE FUN! Buying a house can be stressful, but it can also be loads of fun!

    • Good points all around. Well, we’re going into it with the assumption that we’ll have to double pay rent/mortgage for at least a couple months — and we’re totally okay with that. Someone made a good point below that we might WANT those extra months for things like fixing little things and painting. I guess we’ll only know what happens once we get out there 🙂

  • I used my friend’s boyfriend’s mom! It worked out really well, we clicked and became friends of sorts, and we still maintain sporadic contact today, over two years later.

    Downside? My friend and the boyfriend just broke up. I know my realtor will be professional if/when we want to use her whenever we upgrade from the condo to a house (or bigger condo), but still – awkward!

  • I used a Realtor from church as well. The only downside with her was that the neighborhood I was looking in was not the one she specialized in, so I had to do a lot of my own research. Also, she wanted to show me “her” area because she thought it was a better area than the one I was looking at (which was very true crime-wise, but not true location-wise). So my take-away is that you want to be on the same page as whomever you go with.

    If you get the house a few months before you have to move, you will have time to do all the little fixes that you always want in a new place, so you may be able to save some money there by doing some of it yourself. For instance, you don’t want to be doing your own repainting on the weekend while trying to live there during the week, but it’s easy enough to do a room in a couple of weekends if you don’t have to live with the mess in between.

    Good luck with the house hunt!

  • I found my realtor through family. I was relatively young and knew NOTHING about the home-buying process. I was lucky enough to fine a realtor who was great at guiding me through the process and was honest enough to be firm with me when I wanted places he knew I wouldn’t be able to afford. He wasn’t just thinking about his commission and I’ve referred him to 7 others since. He’s like family now.

    Good luck with your home-buying process!!

    • That is an awesome story! I hope our realtor turns out that great. We know a little about home-buying, but how much can you really know if you’ve never bought a home before, ya know? So, hopefully he can really help us out with our questions. Based on the e-mails we sent this week, he seems like he’ll be super helpful.

      Thanks! 🙂

  • I cannot say enough great things about my Realtor. First, I found him on Twitter (how great is that?). We got into a discussion about the pros of condo/townhouse living, and it evolved into a working relationship. I love when social media can be taken offline. Second, he specializes in the neighbourhood that I was looking into, and third, he’s young (I specifically wanted a young Realtor). He was able to relate to me on every level, and had no problem with the fact that I was a first time home buyer and asked a ton of questions. I also trusted his opinion on pricing, and negotiation tactics.

    It’s super exciting and nerve wracking to buy your first home. I loved every minute of it, and now that I found the right place for me, I continue to be interested in real estate trends and forecasts. It’s so much fun, and I’m really excited for you guys to start your house hunt! 🙂

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